Fear for Sale: The Mystery of McInroy Manor is a HOG that treads familiar ground
The McInroys were a seemingly happy family who succumbed to some mysterious misfortune, and now their ghosts are said to haunt the grounds of their estate. The editor of Fear for Sale magazine - your boss - sends you to investigate the rumors and hopefully dig up enough dirt for a sensational story. (That is, if you get out alive to write it all down).
Fear for Sale is a bit like a paint-by-numbers picture. All of the colors are filled in, but the image doesn't exactly jump off the page. The story is a solid mystery with some mildly interesting twists, but the premise (investigate creepy ghost-filled mansion) has been done countless times before. Most of the story text is hidden away inside a journal that gets updated each time you find a new clue, so you can read all the details if you choose or skip them if you'd rather focus on playing the game.
Gameplay is a mixture of point-and-click adventure gameplay (where you pick up items and carry them with you to use elsewhere), and hidden object scenes where you must find a certain number of random items from a list before earning that one key item that you need.
The game is contained to the rooms of the McInroy mansion and a handful of scenes around the estate grounds. There's a bit of backtracking around, but the game does a good job of letting you know when there's nothing left to do in a particular area. Hints are infinitely recharging in both the hidden object scenes and adventure areas, and if you use one it will either hover over an item you need to pick up or circle around a directional arrow to indicate that you should try walking towards that area.
At one point, as she's exploring the mansion, your character remarks, "Lord McInroy liked to keep a lot of doors locked..." which pretty much sums up the experience. The game is full of locked doors, panels with missing levers and other contrivances, along with well-worn mini-games like connecting circuitboards and lockpicking - all of which veterans of this genre will be all too familiar with.
You have to give adventure games a certain amount of slack when it comes to realism, but there were some nagging leaps of logic in Fear for Sale that stood out more than usual. In one instance you're told that you need to smash a car headlight to get the bulb inside, but for some reason you can't use the crowbar in your inventory to do it - you need to find another tool. In another situation, you need to cut away a piece of fabric but can't pick up the pair of scissors lying on the floor, which would have done the job perfectly. I also got a kick out of how my character nonchalantly picked up a full-sized anvil and to carry in her inventory like it just weighed a couple of pounds!
In the end, Fear for Sale fits the bill if you're looking for throwaway entertainment, but it's not the kind of game that you're likely to remember in a few months. Graphics are nice, but certainly nothing above average. There are a few creepy moments as you come upon ghosts slinking around, but there are no jump-out-of-your-seat-scary moments. It's a run of the mill hidden object game that treads familiar ground.
- Mildly interesting mystery story.
- Nothing we haven't seen before. More than the usual amount of contrived puzzles. Hints recharge slowly.